LINVILLE, North Carolina (July 1, 2022) – Grandfather Mountain, the non-profit nature park run by the Grandfather Foundation for Mountain Stewardship, announced that the new Wilson Center for Nature Discovery is now open to the public. Admission is included with your admission ticket.
The facility nearly doubles the size of the public space of the current Museum of Nature with 10,000 square feet of educational space, including state-of-the-art museum exhibits, three classrooms, a theater accessible to the ADA and increased capacity to host conferences and community events (up to 300 people seated).
New exhibits include an interactive 3D map of the mountain that showcases Grandfather’s ecology and history; flora and fauna walls; and other exhibits focusing on the natural history, weather, and geology of the mountain. The new building, which officially opened in the fall of 2019, was carefully designed to make the most of Grandpa’s natural surroundings, using moveable walls and large glass windows to bring in the grand air inside. It is located halfway up the mountain, adjacent to wildlife habitats, and includes a new botanical garden planted along the east side of the Wilson Center.
The Wilson Center is part of a larger ‘conservation campus’. Soon, customers will also be able to enjoy new learning spaces outside the center, including an amphitheater with outdoor seating and a pavilion.
“As a longtime leader in sharing the wonders of the natural world with visitors, the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation is thrilled to continue this momentum with the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery and Conservation Campus,” said Jesse Pope, President. and executive director. of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. “The legacy of conservation, preservation and education, established by the Morton family and their remarkable vision of what this special place was and can be, will undoubtedly guide us in our next chapter as we strive to make of the impact of this international biosphere reserve felt even more widely.
Through the Wilson Center, the goal of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation is to help visitors understand how unique the mountain is, connect with and appreciate this precious natural resource. It is designed to combine fun and education – providing experiential learning opportunities for visitors young and old – and will expand Grandfather’s ability to deliver educational programs to all types of groups, enabling the campus to become a hub for conservation work and expertise.
The Fulfilling the Promise capital campaign funded the construction of the new space. Coffey Architecture of Boone, NC was the project architect, with Alex Johnson Construction of Newland, NC, the general contractor. The exhibits were designed by PGAV Destinations of St. Louis, Mo., and Art Guild, Inc. of West Deptford, NJ
Learn more about the interactive exhibits:
- Interactive 3D map: At the center of the experience is a full-scale model of Grandfather Mountain, complete with craggy rocks, roads and bridges. Projection mapping and touch screens present the location of various ecological communities and the four seasons in Grandfather, hiking trail information, historical figures in Grandfather and more.
- Mineral cave: The spectacular way Grandfather formed made it a mineral hotbed. This exhibit houses the most comprehensive mineral exhibit in the state of North Carolina—as well as the largest amethyst found in North America—and provides the appearance that guests are looking down the mountain. Track lighting shows off the collection in different types of light, while a rotating display offers different angles.
- The world of migration: This area educates visitors on the migration patterns of bird, mammal and insect species across Grandfather Mountain, sharing information through an interactive display and map projection.
- Flora wall: Grandfather Mountain is one of the most biologically diverse mountains in the eastern United States and has attracted world-renowned and amateur botanists for centuries. This interactive exhibit details the many species of plants and fungi found on the mountain, with magnifying glasses built into the exhibit to allow visitors to examine specimens up close.
- Fauna Wall: This interactive wall features hand-carved bird sculptures and animal images to encourage exploration of the various animal species found here, showing a curated selection of creatures with a digital field guide that allows guests to explore their individual characteristics more closely.
- Biospheres room: This area highlights seven of Grandfather’s 16 distinct ecological communities, arranged in the order that guests would actually encounter them if they ascended one side of the mountain and descended the other.
- Weather and climate: There can often be a 10 degree temperature difference between the foothills and the top of the mountain. This, combined with intense winds, can cause dramatic seasonal changes. Wind tubes are featured to create a hands-on learning experience that demonstrates various wind speeds that commonly occur here. A short video, hosted by ABC News Chief Meteorologist and Chief Climate Correspondent, Ginger Zee, discusses Grandpa’s unique climate and weather.
- Mountain Trees: This exhibit features a series of graphics that connect tree stories to the mountain’s conservation legacy and discusses pollution through a historical and modern lens. A cross-section of a 262-year-old giant chestnut oak harvested from the Grandfather Mountain area is used to explore important dates in North Carolina and Grandfather Mountain history.
- Shadow theatre: Puppet cutouts of different birds displayed behind a screen and graphic panels help visitors learn to identify the types of birds based on the wing, tail and body shapes of the shadows created.
- Panoramic observation towers: Outside the gift shop, a series of still 3D images by local photographer Todd Bush showing different seasonal views of the mountain can be viewed via three optical viewing towers.
The new spaces, at a glance:
- Williams Outdoor Learning Space: In the near future, this space will be built around the existing natural landscape adjacent to the Wilson Centre, with terraced stone walls following the natural curve of the terrain. Here, school children will be able to attend naturalist presentations with their picnics and events such as receptions with environmental speakers, company gatherings or weddings will be organized. The amphitheater will face the new outdoor pavilion and will become a privileged gathering place allowing approximately 150 guests to connect.
- Cobey Botanical Garden: The Botanical Garden offers learning opportunities even before entering the Wilson Center. The garden is planted along the side of the building and filled with native plants, with planting around the walkways and open spaces, and is home to the butterfly garden.
- Education classrooms: Grandpa is a vital resource for experiential and curriculum-based programs for grade school children year-round. Three classrooms will serve as a hub for educational programs for children and adults, as well as for collaboration between scientists and leading environmental experts.
- Hodges Theatre: Soon, improved technology will expand the opportunities available in the auditorium, and the space will be fully accessible to ADA with seating for 132 people.
- Burton Education and Animal Care Facility: Coming in 2023, this two-story facility will have a first floor dedicated to animal care and a second floor providing office and meeting space for education and natural resources staff and zookeepers.
To learn more about the Wilson Center, visit www.grandfather.com/wilson-center.
For more information on tickets or to make your reservation, visit www.grandfather.com/tickets.
The non-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and appreciate the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, visit www.grandfather.com.
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